Bello should’ve appeared in court even if arrest warrant illegally obtained – Judge

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By Taiye Agbaje

A Federal High Court in Abuja has asked the former Governor of Kogi, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, to appear in court for his trial.

Justice Emeka Nwite, in a ruling, held that even if an arrest warrant issued against him was illegally obtained, the defendant (Bello) should still show up in court.

The judge had, on April 23, fixed May 10 for the ruling on the ex-governor’s application to set aside the arrest warrant against him.

The EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, had, on April 17, moved the ex-parte application for the arrest warrant.

But Bello’s counsel, Adeola Adedipe, SAN, on April 23, prayed the court to set aside the arrest warrant against their client

He said that the arrest warrant had become unnecessary since their lead counsel, Abdulwahab Mohammed, SAN, had accepted the service of the charge on behalf of the ex-governor.

He argued that the arrest warrant order, having been made before the charge, ought to be set aside suo motu (on its own accord, without any request by the parties involved).

The senior lawyer argued that contrary to the submission of the lawyer who appeared for EFCC, Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, that the ex-governor must be in court first before any application could be entertained as a criminal case.

He said that the anti-graft agency also made an application on April 18 after the warrant arrest was issued to EFCC on April 17 and that the court granted it.

The lawyer submitted that the arrest warrant was issued in favour of the EFCC by the court in violation of fair hearing to their client.

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He noted that the complainant made an application for substituted service on April 18, after the arrest warrant had been issued on April  17 and “today, my noble lord granted it.”

“The court must satisfy itself that the defendant (Bello) will not be prejudiced in fairness if the warrant of arrest continues to hang on his neck, having been made before service of the charge contrary to Section 394 of ACJA,” Adeola argued.

He argued that justice should be a three-way traffic; that is, justice to the prosecution, the defendant and the public.

He said for Bello to appear in court, he must have the notion that he would get justice.

Adedipe also argued that the EFCC was an unconstitutional body because its establishment was not ratified by the 36 states of the federation.

He said that for the EFCC to become a constitutional body, the 36 states of the federation must ratify the law establishing it as against the current position, that the EFCC Establishment Act was unilaterally ratified by the Federal Government.

He, therefore, asked the judge to vacate the arrest warrant against the former governor.

But Pinheiro vehemently opposed the application.

The senior lawyer argued that for the arrest warrant to be vacated, the former governor must be arraigned and take his plea in compliance with Section 396 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015.

Delivering the ruling on Friday, the judge agreed with the argument of the EFCC.

He said that the order of the court subsisted until it is set aside, even if there is irregularity.

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The judge said Yahaya Bello’s staying away amounted to disregard to the sanctity of the court.

“Therefore, the application by the counsel for the defendant cannot be moved unless the defendant is present in court.

“Bello should come to court on his own, not through EFCC for arraignment on the next adjourn date,” the judge declared.

Meanwhile, shortly after the ruling, Mohammed, who appeared for the former governor, informed the court of a motion on notice filed on May 9.

He said the motion prayed the court to stay further hearing of the alleged money laundering suit filed against Bello until the Court of Appeal decides a pending case relating to the same matter.

The senior lawyer said the anti-graft agency had, by a motion ex-parte, got an order of the Appeal Court stopping the contempt proceedings filed by the ex-governor against the agency at the High Court sitting in Lokoja.

He said the appellate court had already fixed May 20 to hear the case.

He said it would be important the Federal High Court, Abuja awaits the outcome before going further with the trial.

But the EFCC’s lawyer, Oyedepo, disagreed with Mohammed’s submission.

In a short ruling, Justice Nwite refused Mohammed’s application.

The judge said that the matter had generated controversy all over the world and was unnecessary.

Reacting, Mohammed responded that the former governor was not afraid to come to court but was only afraid of his life.

Justice Nwite, however, said that Bello should not be misguided but should be advised to come and answer to the alleged charge.

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“It is just a charge. It has not been proven. Counsel, it is your duty to bring him and you prepare yourselves.

“We thank lordship. We will take your admonition to him because that is just his fear,” Mohammed said.

He assured that efforts would be made to contact the former governor to appear in court at the next adjourned date.

Justice Nwite consequently adjourned the matter until June 13 for arraignment.(NAN)

Edited by Kayode Olaitan

Philip Daniel Yatai

Principal Correspondent, NAN Abuja

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